Feeds

Boffin: Android's on-board malware scanner utterly FAILS

App blocker detects just 15% of malware

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Google has added new anti-malware capabilities to Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean," but relying on them to block malicious apps might not be a good idea, says a computer science boffin from North Carolina State University.

The latest Android – currently only found on a select group of handsets – includes an on-device "application verification service" that claims to be able to alert users of potentially harmful apps and block their installation, irrespective of where they came from.

Associate professor Xuxian Jiang wanted to know how well the new feature fared against known Android malware, and to that end he pitted it against a collection of samples obtained by the university's Android Malware Genome Project.

The results? Not so good. Of the 1,260 samples tested, Android's on-device malware checker only managed to spot 193 of them, for a paltry detection rate of just 15.3 per cent.

That's bad news for Android users, as the instance of malware attacks on the platform has reportedly been growing – a point that Microsoft, in particular, has been using to flog its own, rival smartphone platform.

Jiang went on to pit the same sample collection against an assortment of ten Android-based antivirus engines. Without naming any of the products involved, Jiang reports that all of them fared significantly better than Jelly Bean's built-in one, with even the poorest performer catching 50 per cent of the malware.

Dialog box displayed by Android 4.2 when it spots potential malware

Even in Android 4.2 you won't be seeing this very often

Those are better findings than those reported in March by AV-Test, which reckoned that only about a third of the malware scanners for Android were actually up to the task.

Why such a poor showing for Google's product? According to Jiang, Jelly Bean's app verification service relies on relatively few data points to decide whether or not to block a given app install.

"Specifically, our study indicates that the app verification service mainly uses an app's SHA1 value and the package name to determine whether it is dangerous or potentially dangerous," he writes. "This mechanism is fragile and can be easily bypassed. It is already known that attackers can change with ease the checksums of existing malware (e.g., by repackaging or mutating it)."

Jiang further observes that Google has not integrated VirusTotal – a file-scanning security service which it bought in September – into the Android platform, but that VirusTotal performed significantly better than the app verification service in Jiang's tests.

Although Jiang notes that some form of malware checking more sophisticated than Jelly Bean's on-device method is necessary, however, he cautions that a delicate balance must be struck between security, device performance, and user privacy.

What's more, Jiang is quick to point out that the fact that Google is paying attention to Android security at all is welcome news. Prior to Android 4.2 – which is running on just 0.8 per cent of the devices out there, according to Google's stats – Android devices included no on-board security features at all.

Instead, they have relied on app stores to screen out malware, a method that researchers have shown doesn't always work. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Arts and crafts store Michaels says 3 million credit cards exposed in breach
Meanwhile, Target investigators prepare for long process in nabbing hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.